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Thursday, Sep. 18, 2014

Latin Dance Center offers a 'little bit of spice' for all ages

Monday, April 30, 2012

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Young dancers were all smiles Tuesday night, sharing teacher Mita Feliciano's passion for dance during a Latin hip hop class at the newly-opened Latin Dance Center at 115 East Railroad Street.

Although the studio has only been open since late March, Feliciano already has a devoted group of students.

"When I opened here, a lot of Hispanics wanted to take classes, but often can't afford it," she said. "That's why I only charge $5 per class. I understand how it is. You want kids in activity and exercise, and most of my adult clients want to lose weight."

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Right now, she's working on getting her students acquainted with routines, formations and choreography. Some of the styles she offers include hip hop, salsa, meringue,jazz, Brazilian and Black American.

"I'm trying to take it to another level, because there is not much dance here," she said. "I want to put a little bit of spice in our lives and make sure everyone has fun."

Dance schools often don't teach, she said, because they either expect students to know certain technical skills, or require a lot of money for them to learn it. In the past, she has helped less fortunate dancers through Born a Star, an arts program aimed at keeping children away from the street, negativity and abuse.

The Bronx-born Latina has been dancing since age 5, competing all over the world. She began teaching at age 12, and later won a $5,000 scholarship toJuilliard to study a wide range of styles, including ballet, lyrical, jazz, contemporary and hip hop.

With height and weight a major requirement atJuilliard, she withdrew to focus on competitions in Miami.

An ailing economy in Florida caused her to shutter her studio, School for Sa1seros, two years ago. She and her family moved to Storm Lake in October and are adjusting to small-town life.

At one point, she almost gave up dancing due to arthritis and a knee operation, but it only took one curious little girl to get her back into her groove.

"She asked me, 'Where did you learn that?' after she saw me dance," Feliciano explained. "I couldn't leave it alone, so I found this place, am starting small and plan to move to a larger place."

Students who have big dreams for dance can be taken further. "If they have talent, they'll take you. Performing can get you in the door, like it did for me. It only takes one person to notice you," she said.

Feliciano currently offers the following classes, which are $5 per lesson: kid's Latin hip hop at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Zumba mix at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, salsa at 7 p.m. Saturdays and Zumba heat at 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

She hopes to begin teen classes once school is over for the summer, and will be creating a New York-style hip hop dance crew for upcoming shows and competitions. Audition dates are as follows, for male and female dancers age 12-25: Saturday, May 19 at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 24 at 7 p.m., Monday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. and Monday, June 4 at 4 p.m.